Funding: Research Requests for Proposals

ONCAT supports research that advances knowledge and understanding of the current state of transfer pathways and transfer student experiences in Ontario. This funding strategy aims to generate knowledge that can directly inform policies, pathways, and institutional practices and contribute to a greater understanding of system-wide issues that impact transfer and student mobility. 

Research Projects Areas of Focus

Apply for funding to conduct research in the following areas:

  • Apprenticeship, Transfer, and Labour Market Outcomes. ONCAT seeks research studies that use Statistics Canada’s Registered Apprenticeship Information System (RAIS) and other linkages to examine pathways into registered apprenticeships, flows out of registered apprenticeships, and labour market outcomes.
Student mobility into, and out of, apprenticeship programs remains understudied within the province of Ontario. One of the traditional hurdles to examining such flows has been the absence of a publicly available data source capturing student movement between the apprenticeship, college, and university sectors.
The recent availability of Statistics Canada’s Registered Apprenticeship Information System (RAIS), along with the PSIS and broader Education and Labour Market Linkage Platform (ELMLP), has made it possible for researchers to perform new and in-depth analyses of student flows into and out of apprenticeships across the country.
ONCAT is soliciting proposals from researchers wishing to form and lead a team that will utilize the RAIS and other linkages to examine the following topics:
  1. Pathways into registered apprenticeships. The research team will empirically map pathways into apprenticeship programs, using the PSIS to examine what share of students enter apprenticeships from either pre-apprenticeship or other unrelated programs.
  2. Flows out of registered apprenticeships. The research team will similarly examine flows out of registered apprenticeships and into other sectors of PSE.
  3. Labour Market Outcomes. The research team will use available linkages to T1FF to explore the labor market outcomes of both abovementioned groups, post-completion of their PSE training.
Applicants should have extensive experience working with Statistics Canada datasets within a research data centre (RDC) environment. This experience should be evidenced by a track record of peer-reviewed reports or academic articles. Direct experience working with the RAIS/PSIS and T1FF data is a benefit.
  • Transferability of PLAR. ONCAT seeks a research study to explore how institutions conduct and recognize PLAR resulting in advanced or transfer credits as part of the admissions process, and recommendations for Ontario institutions. 
  • Transfer+Industry-Based Professional Development. A review of existing pathways between industry-based professional development and PSE programs.
Over the last decade, we have witnessed an explosion in the availability of industry-based training solutions. These innovative solutions have complemented the more traditional training offered by for-profit career colleges, which have long specialized in expedited and flexible training delivery across diverse fields. The proliferation of industry-based training has been fueled by an insatiable demand for workforce up- and re-skilling.
Despite all these developments, little is known about the extent to which industry-based training programs—and the resulting learning—is formally recognized by public colleges and universities in Ontario and other jurisdictions. What arrangements currently exist for the formal recognition of learning outside of what are considered “traditional” public college and university credentials, such as diplomas and degrees? What opportunities exist for students to obtain transfer credit for work completed through compressed industry-based training programs to expedite their completion of longer/traditional credentials?
ONCAT is requesting applications from researchers wishing to explore and map existing arrangements systematically for the formal recognition of industry-based training by Ontario public colleges and universities. This review should be informed by in-depth interviews with key stakeholders across the sector, including transfer credit advisors and registrar staff across public colleges, universities, and Indigenous institutes, as well as representatives from groups offering industry-based training in Ontario.
Applicants should have extensive academic/policy expertise in the topic of industry-based training. This experience should be evidenced by a track record of peer reviewed articles or policy reports on this topic.
  • Transfer with Indigenous Institutes. ONCAT seeks an exploration of the current state of transfer within Indigenous Institutes and between Indigenous Institutes and other postsecondary institutions in Ontario.
  • Post-Transfer Integration. ONCAT seeks a large-scale qualitative exploration of the types of challenges transfer students face after transitioning into institutions.
Over the last decade, several postsecondary education (PSE) surveys (e.g., CCI, 2018; Strategic Counsel, 2015; Usher & Jarvey, 2012, etc.) and qualitative studies (e.g., Gerhardt et al., 2012; Robson & Maier, 2018, etc.) have sought to examine the transfer student experience in Ontario. These efforts have produced useful, albeit limited, data on the challenges that transfer students face upon both entering and transferring within and between institutions. However, the post-transition academic and social integration of transfer students into their receiving institutions has yet to receive a systematic, qualitative, empirical treatment. In particular, we have limited knowledge of how transfer students’ post-transfer experiences differ across pathway types (e.g., college-to-university vs. university-to-college), and by important demographics, such as gender, race, and ethnicity. Developing a more nuanced, comparative, and systematic understanding of such experiences could be instrumental to the development of policies and supports to improve transfer student retention and success across Ontario PSE.
ONCAT is soliciting proposals from research teams wishing to carry out a multi-year, systematic, large-scale (150+ interviews), qualitative analysis of transfer students’ integration into their new institutions. We are particularly interested in proposals that incorporate rigorous sampling and recruitment strategies to ensure that the full range of available transfer pathways, and diverse student populations that inhabit them, are represented.  Applicants should avoid proposals using convenience sampling techniques, such as general calls for participants posted on social media platforms. Instead, they should propose innovative recruitment strategies that harness available contact information from various sources, such as application centres, student contact information from a collective of PSE institutions, or some other means.
Proposed projects should also aim to record, transcribe, and rigourously code interview data with qualitative software to ensure that the frequency of themes and patterns across interviews can be quantified and clearly communicated. The use of inter-coder reliability checks and other strategies to increase the reliability of findings is encouraged.
Applicant teams should also provide a concrete plan for how they will incorporate, consult, and work with ONCAT staff during various stages of their project, ranging from project design to knowledge dissemination. Teams should commit to collaborating with ONCAT research and communications staff to produce a final policy report documenting their findings, as well as a series of presentations for sector partners. They should also have a willingness to collaborate on the production of additional knowledge mobilization products for various audiences (e.g., blogs, info-graphics, peer-reviewed papers, etc.).
Required Qualifications
Applicant teams should have a demonstrated track-record of performing large-scale, qualitative research projects either in PSE or an adjacent field (e.g., K-12 education). Their expertise should be evidenced by a strong and current publication record in peer-reviewed outlets, including work focusing specifically on Ontario PSE.
  • Mental Health Supports for Transfer Students. ONCAT seeks an exploration of the relationship between the transfer experience and mental health issues, as well as the unique challenges faced by transfer students with mental health needs. 
  • Policy to Practice Analysis. An analysis of institutional uptake of national protocols and approaches related to transfer (e.g., ARUCC-PCCAT Transcript and Transfer Guide, CMEC Pan-Canadian Protocol, etc.) and their impact on the Ontario postsecondary educational institutions. 
  • Transfer+Student Information Systems. An analysis of Student Information Systems in use across Ontario PSE, along with their capacity to track transfer student data (e.g., PeopleSoft, Workday, Salesforce, other SISs), and the actual usage of such capacities by staff.
  • COVID-19 Impacts on Transfer Student Flows. ONCAT seeks an analysis of changes to patterns in application, enrollment, and how transfer credits are awarded due to COVID-19.
Since March 2020, COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on postsecondary education in Ontario and other jurisdictions. From basic operations to student recruitment, we have seen institutions adapt at a remarkable pace to the challenges brought on by the need for social distancing and various other public health measures. Still, we know very little about how student decision-making and broader mobility patterns have changed in response to the uncertainty around campus closures, the widespread availability of online course delivery, financial pressures on applicants and families, and other disruptions in our system. Efforts are currently underway in the United States, led by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (2020), to quantify how the pandemic is impacting student mobility. However, no similar centralized efforts have materialized north of the border. An absence of intelligence on how COVID-19 will hamper both institutional planning and government policies meant to shelter students from negative effects.
Through this RFP, ONCAT is soliciting applications from teams across Ontario PSE wishing to measure and evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on student mobility and outcomes at their institution, or a collection of institutions. Proposed projects should specifically focus on transfer students or aim to compare trends within this focal population with direct entry counterparts. Projects focusing on questions including, but not limited to, those listed below, are deemed relevant for this funding stream:
  1. How were transfer applications/enrollments at an institution (or collective of institutions) affected by COVID-19? Did the sources, demographic composition, or some other aspect of transfer students change during the summer or fall of 2020 (relative to previous years)?
  2. What was the impact of COVID-19 on transfer students’ program selection, course load (e.g., PT/FT), or other preferences once enrolled at an institution (or collective of institutions)?
  3. Did changes in course delivery impact the academic performance or retention of transfer students vs. direct-entry students? What was the estimated treatment effect of this disruption on grades, graduation rates, or some other KPI?
We are particularly interested in applications promising to use statistical techniques that allow for the estimation of causal or treatment effects, rather than more descriptive or traditional regression-based analyses.
  • Applicants should have expertise in the quantitative methods outlined in their proposal, normally evidenced through peer-reviewed publications employing such methods.
  • At the time of application, applicants should have written support from senior leadership at their home institution (e.g., VPA or equivalent signing authority), or collective, to lead this sort of project on behalf of their institution. Such a letter of support should commit to granting the research team access to required administrative data, conditional on REB approval.
  • Employer Response to Transfer Trajectories: An Audit Study. OCAT is soliciting proposals from research teams wishing to design and lead an audit study that examines employers' response to the presence of transfer trajectories on resumes. In particular, we are interested in understanding differences in call-back rates (for interviews) for fictitious individuals with direct entry and transfer trajectories on their resumes.
Audit studies within economics and social stratification research typically aim to understand how employers respond to diverse signals in candidate resumes, such as race, ethnicity, and other characteristics. Across various nations, such studies have been effective at unearthing evidence of various forms of employer discrimination during the hiring process (see Gaddis 2015; Oreopoulos 2011; Rivera, 2011).
To date, such an approach has not been employed as a way to evaluate how transfer students’ unique educational trajectories—and relatively unorthodox combination of credentials—are interpreted by employers. Instead, research on transfer students’ labour market outcomes in Ontario and other jurisdictions has relied almost exclusively on survey or administrative data capturing employment status and income (e.g., Finnie et al., 2020; Witteveen & Attewell, 2019).
Canadian research suggests that various marginalized groups, such as those with low parental education and income, are more likely to engage in transfer (Davies & Pizarro, 2020; Zarifa et al., 2020). As such, examining how transfer students’ resumes are interpreted by employers serves as a window into the labour market experiences of certain marginalized populations.
ONCAT is soliciting proposals from research teams wishing to design and lead an audit study that examines employers’ response to the presence of transfer trajectories on resumes. We are interested in understanding differences in call-back rates (for interviews) for fictitious individuals with direct entry and transfer trajectories on their resumes.
Applicants should have experience working with experimental research designs. Ideally, they will have previous experience performing large-scale audit studies within Canada. This experience should be evidenced by a track record of peer-reviewed articles.
  • An Assessment of Transfer Information on Ontario College, Indigenous Institute, and University Websites. ONCAT is accepting applications from research teams wishing to perform a systematic analysis of transfer-related information available on the webpages of Ontario colleges and universities. Of particular interes are automated methods that objectively evaluate the readability of website text by average students.
A recent study conducted by the United States Government Accountability Office (2017)—which reviewed a nationally representative sample of 214 college and university websites—found that students may experience difficulty gathering adequate information on transfer. Interviews with key stakeholders also suggested that available information may not be sufficient to support transfer decisions adequately. Other work coming out of the state of Texas has raised questions about the ease with which available information can be accessed and its usefulness to students (Schudde et al., 2020). Furthermore, automated textual analysis of articulation agreements has found that 93% of them are unreadable by the average community college student (Taylor, 2017).
In Ontario, though a comparable systematic audit of transfer information on college and university websites has yet to be performed, existing research has emphasized that an absence of clear information may serve as a key hurdle to efficient transfer (Arnold, 2014; Decock & Janzen, 2015). The absence of this work leaves considerable gaps in our understanding of the utility of current transfer information being offered by colleges, Indigenous institutes, and universities, and hinders efforts to improve and standardize available information through tools like
ONCAT is accepting applications from research teams wishing to perform a systematic analysis of transfer-related information available on the webpages of Ontario colleges and universities. Of particular interest are automated methods that objectively evaluate the readability of website text by average students. In addition to the this analysis, the research team will be expected to perform interviews with key stakeholders at institutions to evaluate their perceptions of the utility of available transfer information and ways to improve it.
Applicant research teams should have a mix of experience performing automated textual analysis, as well as in-depth interviews. This experience should be evidenced by a track record of peer-reviewed articles.


  • Publicly assisted postsecondary institutions in Ontario (Colleges, Universities, and Indigenous Institutes), not-for-profit organizations, and postsecondary education researchers working in the field of postsecondary education in Ontario are eligible to apply.
  • Applications can be from individual institutions or collaborative initiatives.

Funding Available

  • Grants are between $10,000 and $100,000. Additional funding will be considered depending on the scope and type of project.



Submission Requirements

To be considered for funding, proposals must include the following:

  • Clear scope and Sound Methods: Proposals should articulate clear research questions and a detailed research plan that outlines data sources, research approaches, and techniques. 
  • Strong Rationale: Proposals must demonstrate how the knowledge being generated can inform policies, pathways, and institutional practices around student mobility in Ontario. Proposals should explain how the research will contribute to the literature on student mobility and how it can serve as a sector resource for developing a more seamless postsecondary education system in Ontario.
  • Research Capacity: Proposals must demonstrate a clear capacity to conduct the research and an appropriate research team.
  • Knowledge Mobilization Strategies: Proposals should include an overview of knowledge mobilization strategies during the course of the project and how research findings will be shared and possibly implemented.
  • Budget: Submissions must include a clear and realistic budget that aligns with the proposed activities.
  • Ethics Review (if applicable): Submissions should include timelines for Research Ethics Board approval for projects involving human participants; such approval may also be required for institutional research involving multiple institutional partners and/or access to institutional data/records. 


Reports and Check-ins

ONCAT is committed to learning with its partners and values open and ongoing communication. If you are successful in receiving a grant, the following check-ins and reporting are required:

  • An interim update and financial report.
  • Check-ins on the project as needed (via email and/or in person).
  • A final report and detailed financial statement.
  • Presentations (if needed) during knowledge mobilization events.

ONCAT Project Budget Guidelines

Please refer to the following guidelines when developing your budget.

  • Includes salaries, honoraria, and stipends, specified by rate and time.
  • In cases where a faculty member’s time on the project will affect workload, and/or a teaching release is required to provide backfill for the faculty member or academic administrator involved in this project, ONCAT will fund the hiring of a part-time instructor at the college/university/Indigenous institute at the institution’s per semester rate. Please be clear in the workplan and ‘core team’ sections of your application of the anticipated time commitment of each person, especially where support for backfill is being requested.
  • Senior academic administration (decanal or above) and full-time administration with responsibilities including academic partnerships, program development, and/or transfer credit should be considered in-kind contributions. 
Project Costs
  • Includes direct costs for materials and supplies related to this project.
  • ONCAT will not pay for permanent fixtures (for example: laptops, computers, permanent software purchases, and so forth). ONCAT will pay for costs specifically and solely related to the project, such as temporary software licenses (i.e., fluid survey). 
Travel and Accommodation
  • If applicable, this includes any travel and accommodations necessary to conducting project activities. Please be clear in the workplan where travel is needed and include in the budget a breakdown of number of trips and duration. Use of teleconferencing or other cost-effective means to reduce travel-related costs are highly encouraged.
  • For travel-related expenses, ONCAT abides by the Government of Ontario Travel, Meal and Hospitality Expenses Directive. Please see the following link: 
  • This is generally calculated at no more than 20% of the request for funding to ONCAT and is intended to cover activities such as overall project administration by the project lead institution, use of space and resources, and so forth. 
Ineligible Expenses
  • ONCAT will not duplicate any funding received from the Credit Transfer Innovation Grant. If you have sought and received funding through the CTIG for this project or any positions requested for funding, this project will be deemed ineligible for funding. Please note: ONCAT may request revisions to project budgets subject to CTIG funding decisions.
  • ONCAT will not cover expenses related to academic program or transfer pathway delivery.
  • For applications that include an online component, the online development will not be eligible for ONCAT funding and will be at the expense of the institution(s). Please refer to eCampusOntario for possible support.
  • ONCAT will not cover expenses not directly and clearly related to the project activities and goals as outlined in the application and workplan.